Tag Archives: Gov. Greg Abbott

Another Vacancy

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/ Rockwall)

May 26, 2020 — US Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) of Texas, just confirmed as the country’s new Director of National Intelligence, has already resigned from the House meaning that the state’s 4th Congressional District will now be open for the general election.

Almost as quickly as Rep. Ratcliffe’s post-confirmation resignation occurred, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that he will not call a special election to fill the balance of the term. Therefore, the 4th District seat will remain vacant until the next Congress convenes in January. This is the third seat that won’t be filled this year, and it joins CA-50 (Rep. Duncan Hunter’s resignation) and NC-11 (Rep. Mark Meadows resignation) as incumbent-less seats until 2021. All three districts are safe or likely Republican.

Since the Texas primary was held on March 3 and Rep. Ratcliffe was re-nominated with majority support, the CD-4 congressional race will not advance to a July 14 runoff election. Therefore, the district’s Republican Executive Committee will convene on Aug. 8, according to Texas Republican Party chairman James Dickey, in order for the members to choose the party’s general election replacement nominee.

Because TX-4 is a safe Republican seat (Trump ’16: 75-22 percent — Ratcliffe ’18: 76-23 percent), this committee will almost assuredly be choosing the next congressman. And the eventual GOP nominee who emerges from the committee replacement process will have one of the easiest paths into the US House of any new member.

A large field of prospective office holders will declare their candidacies. Already announced are Rockwall City Councilman Trace Johannesen, retired Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon, Navy veteran T.C. Manning, and attorney Jason Ross. McLendon has already been on the ballot this year. He lost the 32nd District congressional Republican primary on March 3 to businesswoman Genevieve Collins who is now challenging freshman Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas).

Texas’ 4th District begins in the far eastern suburbs of Dallas, and then stretches all the way to Arkansas and along the Red River that forms the Texas-Oklahoma border. In between the cities of Rockwall and Heath in the southwest the district roams to Texarkana located in Texas’ far northeast corner. Along the way, small towns with well-known names appear, such as Atlanta, Naples, Paris, Pittsburg, and New Boston.

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Runoff Review – Part II

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2020 — With Gov. Greg Abbott (R) moving the Texas runoff election date, it has drastically changed the short-term Lone Star State political scene. At the end of last week, Abbott transferred the post-primary runoff election date from May 26 to July 14 in consideration of COVID-19 virus precautions.

Statewide, the US Senate Democratic primary is headed to a runoff election, as well as 15 different congressional campaigns.

In the Senate race, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who held Rep. John Carter (R-Georgetown) to a 51-48 percent re-election victory in 2018, placed first in the Democratic primary with 22.4 percent of the vote, but a long way from the 50 percent plateau a candidate needs to claim a party nomination. She will face state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) who slipped into second place by just over a percentage point in the 12-candidate field. Sen. Royce scored 14.5 percent statewide.

The eventual nominee faces three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R), who easily secured re-nomination in his Republican primary (76 percent over four opponents). The longer runoff cycle should typically help the second place finisher, since the individual has more time to change the campaign’s flow. In this case, however, the Democratic nominee, who already starts as a severe underdog to Sen. Cornyn, would lose valuable general election time with the later runoff, thus making the task of overcoming the incumbent even more formidable.

Of the 15 House runoffs, nine are viable to some degree. The six that are not lie in districts that are safe for one party or the other. For example, it matters little which Democrat wins the 13th District runoff (Trump ’16: 79.9 percent), or who eventually becomes the victorious Republican in the 18th CD secondary vote (Clinton ’16: 76.5 percent).

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) north Texas seat is typically thought of as safely Republican, but his 54 percent win percentage in 2018 was considerably below the average GOP vote. Two attorneys, Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly will now do battle until July 14 to see who faces Rep. Taylor in his first re-election bid. The two were virtually tied in the Democratic primary, 44.5 – 43.7 percent, with the slight edge going to McCaffity. Rep. Taylor will be the decided favorite in November.

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Runoff Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 25, 2020 — Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who moved the Texas run-off from May 26 to July 14 this past Friday night means that 16 federal contests – one Senate and 15 House races – will have a longer secondary campaign cycle. In Texas, if no candidate receives majority support in a partisan primary the top two finishers from the particular party advance to a runoff election.

Similar action has occurred in Alabama, where the Senate Republican runoff and secondary elections for both parties in open Congressional District 1 and for the GOP in open Congressional District 2 will now be held on July 14 instead of March 31.

In North Carolina, all federal nominations were decided in the March 3 primary except for the Republican race in Congressional District 11, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/ Buncombe County) western state open seat. The North Carolina runoff has been moved from May 12 to June 23.

Mississippi has an inconsequential runoff for the 2nd District Republican nomination in a district where Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton/Mississippi Delta) will be the prohibitive favorite in November. Yet, this election, too, has been postponed until June 23.

The schedule change could greatly affect the Alabama Senate race and may be just what former US attorney general and ex-senator Jeff Sessions needs to re-tool his campaign message and reverse his recent political fortunes. The primary yielded retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville placing ahead of Sessions, 33.4 – 31.6 percent. All post-primary polling gave Tuberville a discernible lead, but that trajectory could now change considering Sessions will soon have considerably more time to tell his political story. The July 14 winner faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in November.

In the Mobile-anchored 1st District, both parties advanced to runoff elections. The eventual Republican nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former state senator Bill Hightower advanced to the runoff election and the winner of this runoff contest will become a heavy favorite in November. Carl placed first in the primary, nipping Hightower, 38.7 – 37.5 percent. Therefore, the runoff is anybody’s game.

For the Democrats, biologist Kiani Gardner and retired Marine Corps veteran James Averhart will battle for the party nomination. Gardner placed first with a 44.1 – 40.3 percent margin over Averhart. Almost twice as many people voted in the Republican primary within the 1st District race. The Democratic nominee will have little chance in the general election from this safely Republican seat.

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Another Open House Seat …

Texas Congressional District 5, currently represented in the US House by John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall)


By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/ Rockwall)

July 31, 2019 — The announcement that Dan Coats is resigning as Director of National Intelligence and Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) being nominated to replace him creates another open House seat. Now within the space of just one week, the number of open congressional seats for the next election has jumped from 10 to 14.

It is likely that Ratcliffe will go through the confirmation process well into November, meaning Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will call a special election to fill the balance of the current term upon the nominee’s confirmation. Looking ahead, it is likely the special general could fall on March 3, which is the day of the 2020 Texas primary, which means that the candidates would be running to simultaneously fill the current term and for the 2020 party nomination. The confirmation process and calendar, however, will largely dictate if such a schedule will happen.

John Ratcliffe was elected to the House in 2014, after he defeated 34-year congressional veteran Ralph Hall (R-Rockwall) in that year’s Republican primary. He was easily elected in the three subsequent general elections and posted a 76 percent victory last November.

Texas’ 4th District begins at Texarkana on the Texas/Arkansas border, encompasses the counties that touch the northwest Louisiana boundary, and then moves westward and well north of Dallas along the Red River and Oklahoma state line.

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Texas Race Forming

By Jim Ellis

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R)

April 25, 2019 — Three-term Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) is obviously anticipating a tough 2020 fight for re-election. During this year’s first quarter, he led all incumbents in fundraising bringing in $7.8 million to his campaign account and ending the period with $7.4 million cash-on-hand.

It appears the senator will have credible opposition, but quite possibly not the person who most people believed would enter the race.

Though he still hasn’t confirmed or denied that he will become a Senate candidate, reading the figurative political tea leaves suggests that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) will not run statewide. But, retired Army helicopter pilot, M.J. Hegar (D), will challenge the veteran incumbent who was Texas’ attorney general and a state Supreme Court Justice before running for federal office.

Hegar, who raised more than $5.12 million for her race against veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), to whom she lost, announced Tuesday that she is entering the Texas Senate campaign. Though her 2018 announcement video entitled “Doors” (below) — which detailed her wartime heroism and attracted more than 3 million viewers — didn’t result in victory in a strong Republican district against a popular incumbent (she lost 51-48 percent), it did put her on the national political map and raised her status to that of a national congressional candidate and led to her strong fundraising effort.


M.J. Hegar’s “Door” video


Earlier in the year, Rep. Castro began making statements strongly hinting that he would run for the Senate. But, his actions and the latest developments suggest otherwise.

First, there appears to be no internal momentum associated with his building a major campaign. Leading to that conclusion is Castro’s own first quarter fundraising support. From Jan. 1 through March 31, the four-term incumbent and former Texas state representative raised only $36,028 and has just $87,572 in his campaign treasury.
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